How my students taught me ten key mentoring skills – a true story

How my students taught me ten key mentoring skills – a true story

What is the greatest life lesson a young person has taught you? Can you remember the actual time and place where that occurred? I was thinking about this recently as I continued my research for my new mentoring book due out later this year: Mentoring Minutes: 320 Daily messages to inspire anyone working with youth. The book is an updated version of my short series of free podcast  episodes developed to encourage anyone mentoring youth, after a helpful challenge and suggestion from Patrick, one of my past students. As I paged through scrap books and files of letters and thank you cards over a cup of coffee on the deck, I began to appreciate how much my interactions with students I taught or coached over forty-three years had shaped my personality. Paolo and Iain probably have no idea how their brief conversations with me transformed my life and made my interactions with other students more meaningful. Are you teachable? These two young men sowed the seeds of the spirit of mentoring in my life early in my teaching career. Let me explain. The ten most important life lessons my students taught me There will be more than ten life lessons my students taught me over the years. However, these are the most important and, as I reflected on them, I came to appreciate how important these are for anyone who invests their time and energy to mentor youth. 1. Be authentic. Sixteen-year-old Paolo was my first team hockey captain in the late 1970’s. After a practice we stood on the side of the field chatting. I rested one foot...
How to encourage youth to reach their potential – a true story of transformation

How to encourage youth to reach their potential – a true story of transformation

How many times, as a teenager, did you feel alone and battling the world? I remember times when I was alone and trying to puzzle what life was all about. I would be asking questions like: Why me? Why can’t I be like that person? Why? Why? Why? Sue (16) was battling with a serious personal issue. She was a boarder at the school. One afternoon she popped in to see me in my office. Students knew that, if my door was open, they could feel free to come in and chat. I was the school principal at the time. Sue started talking in fairly general ways about school, life, her favorite subjects, things she enjoyed doing and so on. I listened with interest. After a while she shared that she was not looking forward to returning home during the school holidays. Her father was disabled as a result of a work accident. He had been left crippled and was confined to a wheelchair. Sue said that he was abusive towards her and had a violent temper. From the way she talked, the abuse was verbal and nothing else – still, tough for a teenager, whose brain is still developing and prone to emotional outbursts, to contend with. We needed to think through possibilities. Explore options and be non-judgmental We explored the different options open to Sue. I sowed some seeds to encourage her to think outside of her comfort zone. Sue reflected and responded. One idea was for Sue to apply for a United World College Scholarship. This was a Scholarship that would cover her education and boarding...
12 ways to be the love you wish to feel in 2020

12 ways to be the love you wish to feel in 2020

What positive memories will you store from your 2019 experiences? How have you expressed care and concern (love) to others? How have you received the love of others? While reading the newspaper this morning, I reflected on articles which highlighted key events of the past year, key achievements of individuals and others. I reflected on the awful bush fires that have been sweeping through Australia and parts of the USA in recent times, the floods that have hit other areas, the senseless killing of innocent people by politically motivated individuals or groups and (in my opinion) the lack of empathetic and strong leaders in our global community who genuinely want to bring about world peace, an end to poverty and the cessation of war. We reach the end of a difficult year. A time to reflect, store the good memories, learn lessons from poor choices and then move into 2020 with new goals and thoughts. Then I thought about how my grandparents would have thought about the current state of the world. Rumors of war My grandparents lived through two World Wars, a Great Depression and a couple of them lived through the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Middle East conflicts. They would have witnessed the birth of Communist Russia, Communist China and the oppression during the Cold War. My guess is that they would justifiably be asking if all these wars were fought in vain? Have we learnt anything from history? Why do we bring so much suffering upon ourselves? And, they would probably be wondering what has happened to traditional family values? They would probably...
How you can positively impact young lives – true examples

How you can positively impact young lives – true examples

I often ask the question: when you were a teenager, who, other than your parents and friends, had a significant influence on your life? Sometimes, sadly, people were living in homes that were not functioning too well for a variety of reasons, so positive parental influence might have been lacking. No matter what the situation, most young people will talk about a teacher or a coach, a person who cared about them, believed in them. and was often a cheerleader during a confusing time of one’s life. A colleague died earlier this week. We taught together for eight years, shared many life and teaching experiences and enjoyed many laughs. Many of his former students have left tributes thanking him for the different ways he touched their lives. Words and phrases like, ‘inspiring’, ‘approachable’, ‘friendly’,’great teacher’, ‘caring’ and ‘great sense of humor’ are littered throughout the tributes. Clearly one dedicated teacher has impacted many more lives than he probably even realized. How often do we actually pause to hear from young people? What do they think? How are they feeling? Ways to encourage teenagers The world mourns the death of so many innocent lives and the injuries others have sustained as a result of bomb blasts and shootings in different parts of the world in recent times, though we must never forget the tens of thousands, maybe millions of young people living in poverty or traumatized by war or child abuse or some other traumatic event in their lives. For many years I have been thinking of a way to inspire and positively impact the lives of young people, encouraging...
How you can always be a seed sower in your relationships

How you can always be a seed sower in your relationships

Have you ever felt totally helpless when you have tried to assist someone struggling with personal issues to move into a better head space? What hope do I have in all reality working with sixteen-year-old Max (not his real name) when he comes from such a dysfunctional family? I know I cannot be a savior, nor a rescuer and my teaching, mentoring or coaching role is not about ‘fixing’ families or people. I have found over the years that working with adolescents is considerably more challenging when the family is not functioning well. Drone parents I have seen what I call ‘drone parents’ getting in the way, protecting their children because they have their own agendas for their children, thus contributing to the emergence of a ‘powderpuff’ generation of young people who will struggle in an increasingly entrepreneurial, innovative world where one might have to risk failure to achieve dreams. I have seen parents with their own mental health issues becoming a mixture of drone or helicopter parents. They hover and interfere, and much depends on their own mood swings with regard to how they react to situations involving their children. Wearing my education and mentoring hats, as well as reflecting on years of experience working with young people, I can see the potential damage the parent’s suffocating love will cause, but I have to pull back, as I am unable to save a child, fix, or rescue a family. Be a seed sower So, all I do is try and sow lots of positive seeds of HOPE, trusting that one day the young person will remember the discussions,...
“I am too busy!” Whose voice are you listening to?

“I am too busy!” Whose voice are you listening to?

“Be always willing to tell others about the One whom to know is life eternal.” (Michael Cassidy*) “I am too busy!” “[Name} does not respond to all emails as he or she is too busy.” “If you don’t hear from me or us during the next [time period] …” These are increasingly common responses I seem to bump into when I am trying to contact people of influence especially. Of course, they will have huge demands on their time. This is something I respect and accept. Michael Cassidy was never one of these people and for that I am truly grateful. However, when I look at the life of Jesus as my role model, He never seemed to turn people away. Indeed, he sat in the dirt with some of them – humble, selfless, totally focused on the person or people who approached Him – empathized and gave them His time. There were occasions when His disciples tried to protect Him from the crowds, yet somehow He always knew there was someone who needed His words of encouragement. He was the master of effectively managing His time. How do you encourage others? Do you set out to encourage just one person each day? This is what I am doing,as I learn how important it is to be available to others. 7 Key Qualities of Effective Teachers – Encouragement for Christian Educators 7  Key Qualities of Effective Teachers – Encouragement for Christian Educators aims to value, motivate, encourage, re-energize and inspire Christian teachers in their critically important role as transformative educators, in the hope that they will continue motivating and...